PRNEWS GRADES: July 4 Edition

kid getting a bad grade on a paper

[Editor's Note: The PRNEWS staff encounters many examples of brand communications.  We compile assessments of some of the best and not-so-great examples. Our intent is to provide a learning experience about what works or doesn't. You can find the most recent examples here.]

Sophie Maerowitz, senior content manager

Jaguar Land Rover: C.

Source: Jaguar Land Rover’s Twitter account

As Adweek’s Robert Klara points out, COVID-19 has hugely disrupted the auto industry, from a reduction in inventory to price slashing. Sales dropped 53 percent from last year in April, but show signs of a rebound. While inventory remains low and sales are on the rise, car brand advertisers have, for the most part, held off on their usual July 4 advertising push—that is, with the notable exception of Jaguar Land Rover. Jaguar has named its July 4 offer the “Land Rover Call to Adventure Sales Event” and “Jaguar Resumes Play Sales Event.” Stuart Schorr, communications VP for Jaguar Land Rover North America, told Klara the sales effort was “a little play on words borrowing from the cultural relevancy of Netflix. If you stop watching, it will ask you if you want to resume watching.” The “Call to Adventure” and “Resumes Play” verbiage may have made sense to Jaguar's marketing team, but the cryptic verbiage falls especially flat if it’s meant to signal the bounce back of the auto industry. The average consumer is more interested in a good deal than an industry trend. (Perhaps the team’s market research budget was cut?) To its comms team’s credit, Jaguar made a smart PR move avoiding a celebratory July 4th campaign when so much of the nation is decidedly not in the holiday spirit.

Seth Arenstein, editor 

Tractor Supply Company “Show Our Spirit” Grade: Incomplete

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld joked about the lyrics to The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There” during a White House ceremony honoring Sir Paul McCartney. “She was just 17, you know what I mean.” Seinfeld, stopped, and then said to McCartney in the front row, “I’m not sure I do know what you mean, Sir Paul.” A multi-platform ad from Tractor Supply Co. prompts similar uncertainty. The 30-second spot from the Barkley agency tacitly acknowledges COVID-19 and perhaps #BLM. It’s hard to know. “Out here,” it begins, “things have been tough on our communities.” Footage shows a rural scene; urban distress is not part of the bucolic setting “out here.” The voiceover then suggests that this July 4 we “pause and show our spirit across this land.” What exactly does that mean, Sir Paul? Based on the footage, it means white people planting American flags. White people riding lawn mowers. And white people playing—oh, wait, there’s a Black family. Look fast, you might miss it. “Let’s get ready to celebrate and look to a brighter future,” we're told. Is that a time when COVID-19 isn’t ravaging our lives? Probably. Why not say so? The ad also urges us to spend the holiday “with family, good friends and [have] lots of fun.” At this point, the commercial’s footage shows people enjoying cornhole. Incidentally, none of those playing or watching is in a mask. A brighter future?

Mark Renfree, event content manager

Macy’s: D

The only thing saving Macy’s from an F for this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display in New York City is that the retailer attempted a novel solution to the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of the usual raucous 25-minute display, Macy's opted for shorter, five-minute bursts throughout the week to reduce crowds and encourage social distancing. However, that won’t save the retailer from the fact that illegal fireworks have become a thorn in the side of many New Yorkers, with complaints up more than 200 percent compared to June 2019. Not only did Macy's not read the room – or, well, the city – many residents were unaware of Macy’s new plans and were unpleasantly surprised by the mini-displays. All this also puts aside the 6,000 layoffs the company has announced since February, leaving some to wonder why the company can pay for pomp and circumstance but not employees.